Really, how learned could it be?

I'm not quite sure what I think of Columbia University's undergraduate vote on whether to lift the ban on ROTC programs. The rationale for keeping the ban is that the military discriminates against gays with its Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. There's a nice opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by a gay undergraduate (yes, an undergraduate....sigh) named Learned Foote who supports lifting the ban.

I have a knee-jerk reaction in favor of lifting the ban. The Ivy League objection to ROTC has always seemed overly ideological, impractical, and poorly reasoned. It fails to acknowledge what the military has done for us, and done right. It also smacks of the kind of classism which Ivy-sters would instantly squelch (in themselves or others) if it were directed at a foreign person living in poverty, but emerges when talking about the poor who happen to live in flyover states. (Did you know Eric Holder stormed the ROTC offices at CU when he was an undergrad? I just found that out by doing a Google search on this topic!)

That said, there is a real moral question here about whether one should join (or permit on campus) an organization that has discriminatory views. Foote's reasons are mostly pragmatic, not moral. The most convincing of them is that by participating in the military, gays will prove their worth, and DADT will eventually be lifted. I think he's probably right that more benefits will accrue by gays joining the military under DADT, and by ROTC being at CU. But most people think there are some actions that one should not take even if there will be more benefits than harms as a result (for example, censoring Fox news might well be more beneficial to the world than harmful, but we don't want to do that. Do we?)

The question is whether joining a discriminatory organization is an action of this kind, i.e., a moral wrong that one should not commit even if there are more benefits than harms. I really don't know. I'm tempted to say yes. Then I think about WWII, and wonder what would have happened if conscientious men and women decided not to join a segregated army. And I'm not so sure.

That said, how on earth did this guy get the name Learned Foote? Were Mr. and Mrs. Foote fans of Learned Hand, and tried to continue the tradition of naming a person after an educated appendage?

1 comment:

  1. As for your final question: the answer is yes.

    Oh, Columbia. The funny thing is that this is so talked-about but the vote means nothing. They're not even putting it up to the Senate.

    -Jen B.